By Mo Stewart                                                                                                                   

27th October 2012 

Whilst the Prime Minister employs talented script writers, and waxes lyrically about the nation’s concerns for our most vulnerable people, the reality is that the medical tyranny used to assess anyone claiming sickness or disability benefits has, by the Department for Work and Pension’s(DWP) own admission, resulted in 1100 deaths between January – August 2011.** Significantly, more recent death totals are not yet available from the DWP. 

These genuine benefit claimants were removed from Incapacity Benefit and placed into the ‘work related activity group’ following a ‘medical assessment’ as exclusively conducted by Atos Healthcare – a subsidiary of the IT giant Atos Origin, who were awarded the very lucrative IT contract for the recent Olympic Games. The ongoing human tragedy is that, regardless of diagnosis, prognosis or treatments, these victims were removed from the safety net of the welfare state by under-qualified DWP staff, following a totally inadequate medical assessment by Atos Healthcare, forced to prepare for work and then died trying.**      


This ongoing, relentless sinister attack on the welfare state was planned by the Thatcher government in 1994(1), with successive governments contributing to the fear now faced by over three million chronically sick and disabled people.

The Prime Minister announced last year that disability benefits should only be available to those whose reduced health was due to ‘no fault of their own.’* Playing ‘the blame game’ whilst demonstrating his very dangerous lack of comprehension of the sinister implications of all serious addiction was thought at the time to be extreme comments by the Prime Minister, but it was only ever the tip of the iceberg.

The reality is that every chronically sick and disabled person in the UK, in receipt of disability benefits, has learned to live in fear of their own government that is shared by the claimed ‘moderate’ political party; namely the Liberal Democrats.


Most civil servants and MPs are able bodied, with very few having any detailed personal knowledge about the vast subject of chronic illness or disability, so sweeping generalisations feed the national press whilst one particular man, with a past history in finance, was given unlimited authority. He was ennobled to permit his appointed to government, and he was never elected, but his opinions are never challenged by government so Lord Freud, as the Minister for Welfare Reform, enjoys unprecedented authority about a subject that he demonstrably knows nothing about. 

Lord David Fraud

With a past history in the world of finance Lord Freud knows about budgets, and he engaged with the insurance industry to reduce the burden of government funded welfare.(2)  In his own words(3), Lord Freud admitted that he knew nothing about welfare or disability.

Yet, three weeks following his appointment, he produced a report that was adopted by government and now the weakest in society live in fear of frequent obligatory government medical assessments, as conducted by Atos Healthcare, that have been demonstrated to be totally ‘unfit for purpose’ by the President of the Appeal Tribunals, national front-line charities, welfare agencies and concerned high calibre professionals. The government ignores them all (1)(4)(5). 

Atos Healthcare (AH) are engaged to undertake all medical assessments on behalf of the DWP for anyone in receipt of Incapacity Benefit – now changed to the new Employment Support Allowance(ESA) – but the AH assessments remain totally free from all public accountability according to the General Medical Council and the Care Quality Commission.(1)

Undeterred by public concern, the multi-million pound contract between the DWP and AH was recently extended (6), whilst countless numbers of our most vulnerable citizens testify to this bogus medical assessment, that remains as far away from genuine medical evaluation as it’s possible to be.

(1) In reality, the Atos assessment is a limited non-medical assessment, that discounts all input from the patients’ GP and Consultants, and remains very high risk as it is based on the totally discredited Bio-Psychosocial Model(BPS) of disability(7) that totally disregards the diagnosis and prognosis of the benefit claimant. 

However, behind the might of Atos Healthcare(AH) are government advisers Unum Insurance, introduced to the UK government in 1994 by Professor Mansel Aylward when Chief Medical Officer at the DWP, and who was to leave the DWP to become the first Director of the Unum Centre for Psychosocial Disability Assessment. Some years later, mounting public criticism forced the removal of Unum from the title of the Centre, but the Professor remains unrepentant. 

When known as Unum Provident Insurance, the company were identified as one of the most discredited corporate insurance giants in the United States(US)(8), and the ‘medical assessments’ undertaken by AH are alarmingly similar to those used by Unum for the assessments and denial of income protection insurance claims, as the Atos assessments also use the totally unacceptable  and highly discredited BPS model of disability assessment.(8)

The US courts discredited Unum Provident’s “non-medical” model for assessing medical conditions(8) yet successive UK governments adopted it to reduce the welfare budget, regardless of the human cost of this imported US medical tyranny. Now known as Unum Insurance, the company have rebranded periodically over the years, depending on the numbers of $multi-million fines imposed due to unacceptable medical assessment practice(9), and they offer income protection (disability) insurance but, as a company, have a disturbing past history of resisting paying out when an insured person hits hard times with illness, or the onset of a disability, and needs to make a claim.(8)(9)(10)(11)

Previously known as Unum Provident or First Unum, the company have been advising successive British governments since Thatcher was Prime Minister and this corporate giant, described as operating ‘disability denial factories’ inspired the research report: Atos Healthcare or Disability Denial Factories(1), as now accessed by welfare professionals throughout the UK.  

Indeed, Unum Insurance were identified in 2009, by the American Association for Justice, as being ‘one of the top two worst insurance companies in America’(8) yet have been involved, behind the scenes, with the DWP for almost 20 years.(9)(12)(14)(15) 

Disturbing evidence of the eventual planned move from the British welfare state to the US style of welfare, to be funded by private insurance, was first exposed in the House of Lords during the welfare reform debates last year.

Members of the noble House quoted from the detailed research report: Welfare Reform – Redress for Disabled People (9) as written at the request of noble members. Unsurprisingly, the government decided that all suggested amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill, hard won in the House of Lords, were to be disregarded due to the use of Financial Privilege(16) – an ancient authority of the House of Commons. Hence, this coalition government’s contempt for any challenge was complete, unstoppable, and demonstrably dangerous for the nation’s chronically sick and disabled population.(8)(9)  

One of the reasons for Professor Aylward inviting the involvement of Unum Insurance was the DWP’s ultimate plan to follow the American lead in welfare, to identify such conditions as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a ‘psychological condition’ by using the BPS model of disability assessment and thus to, eventually, justify not funding welfare benefits for sufferers, as in the US.(17)(18)(19)

Considering that, at the time of the introduction of Unum (Provident) Insurance to the British government by Professor Aylward, in 1994, Unum already had an atrocious reputation in the US for failing to fund payouts from the insurance policies they sold, one must wonder as to why their advice was so willingly accepted and adopted by all successive UK governments ever since… (1)(9)(17)(19)(20)

Within three months of leaving the DWP Professor Aylward, recently rewarded with a Knighthood for services to disability assessment,  was appointed as the Director of the then named Unum Centre for Psychosocial Disability Research at Cardiff University and his appointment as the Centre’s Director led to the Professor’s appointment as the first ever Chair of Public Health in Wales. 

Professor Sir Mansel Aylward is also a Director of the Health Claims Bureau(13), a private company involving Unum Insurance with the ‘medical assessment’ for claimants of income protection or disability insurance for industry.  Yet, this assessment is virtually identical to the tyranny used by Unum (Provident) Insurance, as exposed by the Yale School of Law(21) when identified as the Unum Provident Scandal, and now copied by the UK government to remove helpless victims from State financial support.

To guarantee that Atos Healthcare remained confident about their purpose, Unum’s former Chief Medical Officer Mike O’Donnell crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was appointed as the new Chief Medical Officer for AH  but, of course, both companies deny that there is any professional relationship between them.

None of this news will disturb a UK government that has now been warned against more benefit cuts by the United Nations(22) and who appear to be trying very hard to be removed from all responsibility under the European Court for Human Rights(23).

Meanwhile, the Professor recently denied any knowledge of this medical tyranny when confronted by disability activists outside a  lecture hall where he had been lecturing representatives from the insurance industry…..(24) 

When previously known as Unum Provident Insurance, this US corporate insurance giant were actually banned from 15 States in America and 6 countries, worldwide, until 2008(1), when they again changed their name to become known simply as Unum Insurance.

Someone, somewhere surely now needs to be asking the question as to why was this highly discredited corporate insurance giant ever invited to advise the British government about welfare reforms….?? 

Someone, other than investigative TV journalists(25), needs to be asking what was the ultimate goal, and who were to be the undoubted beneficiaries of this government funded medical tyranny, imported from America, against the most vulnerable people in our society?   

Unum’s unacceptable influence with successive UK governments was recently exposed at the Liberal Democrat Conference by the courageous young Mr George Potter.(26) 

If only the political leaders of the Liberal Democrats enjoyed some of the courage displayed by George Potter, millions of chronically sick and disabled people would no longer need to live in fear of this coalition government, that has totally failed to protect them, despite the claims by Liberal Democrat leaders.

Mo Stewart                                                                                                                   

27th October 2012

Disabled veteran (WRAF)

Retired Healthcare Professional

(**)  32 die a week after failing test for new incapacity benefit:

       (*)   PM vows to get addicts into work:

(1)   Atos Healthcare of Disability Denial Factories:

(2)    IPI:

(3) Welfare is a mess, says adviser David Freud:

(4)    CAB evidence on ESA work capability assessment: NOT WORKING: 

(5)    Disability test a ‘complete mess’ says expert:

(6)    Atos wins £400m deals to carry out disability benefit tests:

(7)    A Tale of Two Models:

(8)  The Ten Worst Insurance Companies: The American Association for Justice (UNUM is listed as 2nd WORST insurance company in America)

(9)    Welfare Reform – Redress for the disabled:

(10)  Memorandum submitted to Prof Harrington:

(11)  Unum and Business:

(12)  Mutual Benefits: Private Eye Issue 1301:

(13)  Health Claims Bureau Directors:

(14)  UNUM advises gvt:   (Dec ’02)

(15)  UNUM advises gvt: (Mar ’06)


(17)  Unum influence in the UK continues to wreck havoc: wreck-havoc/

(18)  Downgrading disability:

(19)  Welfare reform tyranny direct from the USA:

(20)  New evidence of corporate giant’s influence on welfare reform:

         (21)  The Yale School of Law: The Unum Provident Scandal & Judicial Review of benefit denials under ERISA:


         (22)  Budget cuts could downgrade UK rights watchdog’s UN status:


         (23)  The Equality and Human Rights Commission is being destroyed


         (24)  An academic responds with disbelief to Aylward’s denial of responsibility:


         (25)  Disabled or faking it?

         (26)  Liberal Democrat Conference: Party votes to review impact of welfare reform:               



  1. George Berger says:

    This is excellent, but contains one serious error. It is not the BPS Model that is used, but a distorted modification of it. About a month ago I read Dr George Engel’s original paper on the model. It stresses the joint use if biomedical, psychological, and social factors when discussing or treating illness. Today only the latter is used, and in a reduced form at that. Work capability is stressed as *the* major or even sole social factor. Then a notion of “good work” is used, where “good” can be defined at will. It is this that allows the assessments to be no more than a fixed series of *fixed* descriptors: these specify the notion of “good,” which is hence deprived of all moral and indeed most social, content. The fixity allows anyone to administer the tests. *This* is why qualified medical, psychological, and social persons need not be used to do this job. I doubt that Dr Engel would approve if he were still with us.

  2. George Berger says:

    Mr. Goodright. You and others might know, but I am pretty sure that others don’t. So thanks a lot for you curt comment. i am doing what I have been payed for doing since I got my doctorate in philosophy, in 1971: analysing, that is, thinking clearly. It’s what one prominent person in Black Triangle accused me of, falsely: he told me to stop lecturing him. I did. I blocked him. If people cannot think clearly, or listen to those who can, the game’s over.

  3. Mo Stewart says:

    Interesting. The only people who ever claim to find errors in my work are academics who totally miss the point…

    Please be advised that the people who are suffering have no interest in the original theory of the BPS model – we all actually DO know that this is a bastardisation of what was intended, but that is exactly why chronically sick and disabled people are dying following a totally bogus ‘medical assessment.’

    I am unaware of any ‘curt comment’ as none is published. Do please continue to think clearly and totally miss the point.

  4. jed goodright says:

    Mr Berger
    Don’t patronise me or others.
    We know means WE KNOW – we are on the front line of global fascism.
    I too have worked tirelessly, in poor health, for decades not just academically, and I think clearly and listen and actually challenge the status quo.
    You do not have the monopoly on anything!

  5. George Berger says:

    The curt comment was by Mr Goodright (but I wonder if that’s his real name), and, Mo, neither of you have told me what point I have missed. Finally, I am sure there are disabled people who can benefit by analyses such as mine. Of course I have no monopoly on anything. But in fact, although the article on the Two Models is quite good, it offers no analysis of the BPS model in its original and perverted forms. That’s what got me interested in it. I prefer to think before I act, and indeed while I am acting. For as Bertrand Russell said, “Most people would rather die than think; in fact they do so.” But heck, I suppose that my having been born and fully educated in America precludes me from participation in any battle with global fascism.

  6. George Berger says:

    Oh yes. I forgot to mention one point. There is a difference, Joe, between being patronising and explaining. One person here on the Continent told me that I am “an intellectual in the sense of Lenin.” I asked him what that meant, and was told that I was telling working people things that they don’t know but need to know. I felt honoured. But since the person was a Stalinist I thought (in my analytical mind), “Yes, and after you win the revolution you wish to have, you will shoot me in the neck if I do not toe your ideological party line.” That, Mo and Jed, is where dogmatism instead of humane understanding, leads.

  7. joe kane says:

    Take no notice of Berger. He goes around UK disability forums harassing people with his gibberish about how the purity of Engel’s and his biopsychosocial model has been diluted and polluted. I mean, so what? BPS is so all encompassing which means it’s also utterly vague, and therefore useless when it comes to the real world. It means whatever anybody want’s it to mean which really means its utter codswallop to start with.

    BPS = Biology, psychology, society – this would have to mean that anyone treating patients properly would have to be a qualified and experienced expert in biology, psychology and sociology. To take one of those, funnily enough, the Aylward-Wessely school of disability denial do make claims to be experts in sociology, but have no qualifications in it, and are totally out of their depth when discussing it in public.

    Here is the wonderful Gill Thorburn skewering the sociological pretentious of patient-hater Prof Simon Wessely, probably the most hated doctor in the UK (according to the Guardian) and a pseud0-academic just like his very close colleague Mansel Aylward –
    Professor Wessely: Knocking the Docs & Overstepping the Mark
    down with all that
    25 Oct 2012

  8. George Berger says:

    Thanks Mr Kane, for deleting my last comment, in which I actually agreed with you. Without knowledge we are lost. Some knowledge is vague at the beginning, but can often be made more precise and hence useful. The penultimate paragraph of your post right above this one, is almost my conclusion . It would take a team of at least three differently qualified persons to properly assess anyone. I think that ATOS cannot do this, since it would be expensive. That would reduce their profits. I doubt that what I have just written is ”gibberish,” because if it is, so is what you have just written (given that we agree on this point). Finally, as you probably know, I do not go “around UK disability forums….” But enough of this nonsense: for me it’s time to learn a bit more about the foundations of mathematics, whilst listening to the elegant music of Haydn.

  9. Gill Thorburn says:

    Would just like to say that, I too researched BPS theory for my writings 🙂 since I didn’t feel I could criticise it until I had. I was trying to be academically fair, as we do. I know there are academics who don’t even consider it’s original form to be a valid approach to illness. For myself I think it is exceedingly utopian in nature. It depends upon a different societal structure to the one we have in the West, one in which there would be layer upon layer of support that anyone could tap into according their needs, whether they be biological, psychological or social. That structure is so far from existing that the idea that it could be implemented in these days of ‘austerity’ and cuts to *all* services is risible.

    As I’ve argued it is the use to which the BPS model has been put which discredits it and those propounding it. It has been used exceedingly narrowly as an argument for removing people from benefits. Its underpinning philosphy has been singularly used to stigmatise and defame those suffering from illness. It’s origin is irrelevent, since it’s philosophy bears no relation at all to the current application of it. I think we can all agree on that, Mr Berger here included.

  10. George Berger says:

    Hallo Gill. Thanks for the balanced reply. Exactly the kind I like. You are right about the utopian nature of Dr Engel’s model. I know one of his students personally and one person whom Engel was quite possibly implicitly criticising, the late Dr T. Szasz. Both would agree with you., I think. I wished to show, as simply as I could, how the ideas behind the model were modified for misuse. For this purpose, the model’s utopian nature does not come into play. Its omissions and distortions by others do. Especially the contraction from the social in general, to work alone and then to the notion of good work. The latter was inserted by one of the British doctors or politicians, I forget who. It was reading about that use of ‘good’ that gave me the key for a decent analysis. I think it’s important that as many patients as possible understand, at least, that ‘good work’ is crucial to the cruelty and impoverishment to which they are subjected. The same thing is happening in the Netherlands, where the notions might have come from, via America and KPMG. I cannot be sure of this. At any rate, I do believe that knowledge is power; the more a potential victim knows and understands, the better. Or so I believe.

    1. Vicki says:

      George – small point. I’m neither agreeing nor disagreeing with your case. I’m just asking to you to use shorter paragraphs.

      When I’m reading academic prose on the page, I expect and can deal with long sentences and paragraphs. Here on the web matters are a little different, since reading on screen is more difficult than reading things on a page. That is especially true on this (and quite a lot of other) blogs and forums where comments are displayed in small fonts and closely spaced lines.

      I used to think that the shortened paragraphs habitually used by professional websites were a concession to a dumbed-down, low-attention span generation. These days I’m afraid I find them a concession to ageing eyes and back-lit screens.

      I will also confess that I am also being robbed by disability of my ability to cope without the signposts of shorter paragraphs for the structure of arguments. In most places I reckon that the problem is mine to solve. Here on a disability forum, where fatigue, poor eyesight and concentration problems are common, I think it reasonable to ask posters to take that into account.

      Academia was once my home and I do know that this snipping into smaller segments goes against the grain for many academics. I have my own problems making things short and clear – as this post shows, I suppose!

      Academics, or anyone constructing a long but coherent argument, may feel that they have to use bigger and more convoluted paragraphs. When they do I must, reluctantly, allow their arguments to go untested – in fact unread – by me as they demand too great a ration of my limited mental energies.

      I can’t be the only one.

      1. George Berger says:

        I agree, Vicki. I’ll try to write shorter paragraphs whenever possible. Some paragraphs do need to be long, to keep one train of thought among others where it belongs. But *those* two above could and should have been split.

  11. Mo Stewart says:

    Well said Gill.

    Perhaps now Dr Berger may have finally grasped the point he keeps choosing to miss.

    Knowledge is power and most of us take care as to how we use it.

  12. clarebelz says:

    Well when all is said and debated, knowledge may be power, and I only wish I had the cognitive skills that I have lost through illness to analyse this stuff.

    But it boils down to this: it’s of no use to me when you’re facing the loss of your food budget for the month from April next year due to paying bedroom tax, council tax, and have just been informed that you will be forced to pay an extra £1500 a year for private care that the local authorities ‘don’t fund’ anymore, on top of the £3000 per year you already pay out of benefits back to the local authority for care (I have no assets or private income: free care is a myth), a care package that has just been cut by 25%, whilst the charge has not.

    The knowledge of BPS model is good to have of course, and I know I’m being a little glib about this, and thank you to those who are so diligent in their research and are trying to help, but ultimately, I’m not thinking of that right now, I just wonder how I’m going to eat when I’m 7 miles away from a food bank, I cannot use public transport, I now can’t afford to use taxis because of the extra £1500 to pay for care which along with the £3000 removes all of my DLA and disability premiums, and even if I could get there, I can only use the food bank 3 times a year!

    And, if my income is cut further under universal credit and PIP, then I’ll basically be back to the situation whereby I’m living in a home that has only water available, with no: heating, lights, loo roll, washing powder, personal hygiene items, soap, toothpaste, and invariably just bread to eat (been through this many times before).

    This is the reality. This is in the mind almost every hour of the day like a death sentence hanging over you. When you already have no quality of life to speak of, and what little you have is going to be removed it’s a living nightmare.

    I meant no offense!

  13. George Berger says:

    Mo, as it happens, Gill and I agree but stress different aspects of the same thing. What gets discredited is the ATOS perversion (as I think Gill means, by using “origin”), and I agree. Gill’s mentions of philosophy and origins refer to what Dr Engel wrote. She correctly emphasised Dr Engel’s utopian vision, I correctly emphasised some concepts employed in that vision.

    Ad Clarebelz, my sole aim was to get as much as possible of what I’ve learned online. Different readers have different needs and backgrounds, and can pick, choose, and use what is important to them. I too meant no offense. (Long ago I met the original calrebelz.)

  14. Gill Thorburn says:

    I’m very glad we agree on that 😀
    I think it’s very characteristic of the intellectual group behind these reforms that they choose both to omit and ‘insert’ ideas at will with very little justification and in an unbalanced way, obviously not consdering themselves to be bound by the ethics of any of the disciplines whose concepts they choose to appropriate.

    They seek to legitimise their ‘arguments’ by appearing to draw upon an established ‘model’, but in practice it is one of their own creation, which exaggerates one feature, the psychological, towards an end of discrediting and undermining the individual’s testimony about their illness. It is glaringly unbalanced in that way. Having established this concept of individual ‘deviance’ they then set it against an abstract and idealised notion of, as you put it, ‘good work’ which bears little relation to the reality of what work has become in our advanced capitalist society; with its intensification of work practices, precarity and driven down wages that are casting more and more people into work-related illness and in-work poverty.

    Really there is enough wrong with this group’s literature to fill a book! The matter of ‘common illnesses’, whose prevalence they consider is proof that people are not really ill, rather than the more convincing argument that the conditions of modern work and ‘lifestyles’ and environmental factors are making more and more people ill – its just in different ways. We have this modern ‘myth’ raised that medical science is triumphant against all disease now, so no-one can really be ill for very long. The truth is that medical science struggles as much as it ever did to cope with the increasing effects of industrial civilisation on our health.

    What they seek to do with their re-conceptualisation of work definitely verges on cult-like propaganda. Similarly their attempts to ‘change the thinking’ of medical personnel such as GPs draws more than a little upon the methodology of brainwashing, or at the very least emotional manipulation. If they’re not seeking to get their patients back into work then they’re complicit in keeping them sick. Some of the accounts, including my own, of people’s Atos assessments suggest a kind of demeanour of those ‘healthcare professionals’ who carry them out that is dehumanised and robotic. They have to leave aside their personal and medical ethics in order to do that work. That’s a form of cognitive conditioning.

    I *have* gone on a bit there. But there is just so much wrong with it. And it’s doing so much harm 🙁

  15. Humanity2012 says:

    What is Needed is Compassion and Common Sense which will Guarantee
    Constitutional Protection For the Welfare Benefits of the Poor and Vulnerable
    and Not Allow Billions to be Wasted upon War Mongering in Afghanistan and
    upon Nuclear Weapons

    A Human Right to a Decent Standard of Living Not a Privilege of being Born
    into the ” Upper ” Class

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